Oh, what a…lovely…dress.

As I’ve mentioned recently the majority of projects on my current to-do list are dresses. Again, not something I usually have much call to wear but an item of clothing I like to make none-the-less. I’ve already shown you a picture of the cherry blossom dress. I’ve also recently completed (except for the hem, which I’ll need the assistance of a full-length mirror for) another dress that is pretty much the same as the cherry blossom dress, with a few very slight alterations. That one was made out of black cotton with a lovely cherry print on it. I’ve been meaning to make a cute cherry print dress for a while — ever since I came across this one online. I love a lot of the dresses on the website and would wear a great many of them (yes, I would probably wind up wearing dresses a lot more than I do if I actually had some that looked like this). The big problem with a lot of the clothes I find online is that they simply won’t fit me. They’re either not in my size or the style won’t work with my body type. It happens. Moving on.

One of the ways around this is to work on creating your own wardrobe, one piece at a time. Presumably, you know the quirks of your body better than any maker of ready-to-wear clothing does, so you can adjust for “problem areas” as you go. Short torso? Fixable. Don’t like your upper arms? Just slap some sleeves on that cute sleeveless dress/top. One shoulder sits higher than the other? It’ll take some work but there’s a solution for that, too. And before you ask, yes, that’s actually sometimes a concern for some people. The lady who runs a site about historic costuming that I visit has that problem, in addition to a touch of scoliosis. All these things can be addressed during fittings and the drafting of patterns, so as to make your problem areas disappear – or, at the very least, stand out less.

Now, one of the things I usually have problems with when using commercial patterns is the length and proportion of different elements. Although I’ve got a shorter torso than I’d like it seems to me that the torso part of the patterns I buy are always much too short for me. They tend to hit above my navel. I’ve taken to extending the length of some of the patterns I work with while cutting out the fabric. Sometimes this works better than others. In many ways, I’m still learning about the whole process of getting a perfect fit.

I started work on a cute little dress the other day. I was using some green stripey fabric with a Hawaiian inspired print that I had picked up a year ago. Maggie spotted the pattern on the futon in my sewing corner the other day and proclaimed it cute. I agree, naturally. That’s why I picked it up. It’s got a lot of gathering at the waistline, however, which made me pause a little. My hips are one of the things that I’m not all that keen on – when the time comes I don’t think I’ll have any problem giving birth – and it’s rather easy to draw attention to that area. I figured I’d give the dress the old college try, as they say, and went ahead with the construction.

As I normally do, I extended the bodice of the dress so it would hit much closer to my natural waist than it was originally going to. I hand-sewed the stitches needed to gather the skirt, rather than use the longest setting on the machine. I’ve found that hand-sewn gathering stitches work much better than machine ones when it comes to gathering large amounts of fabric. I’m sure I could make it easier with the machine stitches just by changing the tension on the thread, but…I still prefer the hand-sewn gathers.

The pattern went together rather easily. There aren’t all that many pieces and I didn’t really have to look at the instructions. I’m actually rather happy with the way the whole thing turned out, aside from one little thing…

The darn dress looks horrible on me.

It’s okay, really. I’m not all that upset by it. These things happen. If you make your own clothes, you’re occasionally going to make something for yourself that never actually shows up in your wardrobe. By now I’ve had a number of mishaps. Most of them wind up being taken apart, with the fabric reused for other items. Some items are simply passed along to other people. A coat I made in an attempt at making a Green Rider costume wound up going to my sister. The black corduroy coat I originally made for my steampunk character, Tesla, wound up working better with Maggie’s costume, so I just gave it to her.

Actually, Maggie seems to be the beneficiary of most of my recent mishaps in sewing. In addition to the steampunk coat, she received the first version of the cherry print dress that I made. It needs to be altered a little bit but it’s much more likely to work with her than on me. She will also most likely be the person to wind up wearing the new dress I was working on. I’ve left off putting in the zipper for now, to make altering the fit for her a little easier. We’ll see whether the style works better for her than it did for me. I have a feeling it will…it’s similar to a dress she recently bought.

The lesson we can learn from this, folks? Well, first off, know your body type. 🙂 I knew, going in, that the gathering at the waist probably wouldn’t go well. If I had listened to my instincts (and remembered previous “mishaps”) I would have avoided making something I couldn’t wear. Just because something looks good on the model on the front of the envelope, it doesn’t follow that it’ll necessarily look good on you. Sorry, but them’s the breaks. Ideally, our clothing should reflect our personalities and make us feel confident. In order to do this, it has to fit

Second, it’s a good idea to make a “draft” copy of a new pattern out of a cheaper fabric – like muslin or broadcloth – before you use the fabric you intend to use for the real piece. Yes, the construction will take twice as long (you’ll be making two versions of the piece instead of one, after all) but you’ll save yourself some frustration – not to mention money – if you realize that the pattern just won’t work after making a cheap-y first draft, rather than finding out after you’ve used the good stuff you’d been saving.

Third, when you do happen to make something that doesn’t fit in the way you thought it would or wanted it to don’t get upset and don’t just pitch it in the trash. Go ahead and finish it the best you can and see if someone else you know can use it. Even if it doesn’t work for you, that doesn’t mean it won’t look good on a friend of yours. If there’s no one in your circle who can use it, try taking it down the street to the thrift store or donate it to a local charity. I guarantee that there will be someone, somewhere, who would love to add your creation to their wardrobe. You’ll be sharing your creativity and doing something good for the environment. Think of it as recycling!

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